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Old School

December 16, 2010

I came across a Chinese article piece the other day, titled “What education have I received from a Brand Name School?”. I immediately recognised the traits depicted depicted as those of my previous secondary school in Hong Kong, despite the fact that the school was not named. The article was an insightful commentary on the ‘vices’ (for lack of a better word) of the school.

The writer was in Form 1. She came from a Chinese primary school and was one of the few students in her class who didn’t come from the secondary school’s primary section, and the only student who was from a Chinese primary school. She ended up in what is labeled as the “Elite Class”, which is known for its students’ academic rigour and excellence in English. She naturally had difficulty catching up at first and wrote about the hardships she encountered. She also depicted the skewed perceptions and twisted expectations of her peers.

One of the points which amused me the most was the fact that students were ashamed of their proficiency in Chinese. The writer remembered a time when one of her classmates aced her Chinese Examinations. When she went to congratulate her, she was met with the most baffling reaction: her classmate was actually unhappy to have done so well. In these classes, it considered an honour to excel in English and remain hopeless in Chinese; English is the “superior” language.

The writer also mentioned the harsh reality of how the Elite class received the best of everything:  material, teachers and attention, while the other classes were discarded as “sub classes”, the main role of which is to bring out the superiority of the Elite class. All the opportunities were given to the Elite class, and the others forever remained in their shadows.

I believe this article revealed two of the many issues such elite classes have:  superficiality and vanity – of students, the staff and the institution itself.

The article naturally caught the attention of alumni and current students alike, resulting in a frenzy on Facebook debating the legitimacy of the piece. Some felt that the article conveyed and echoed their sentiments while others felt disgraced and insulted, arguing that it is not the institution’s fault to be elitist and pragmatic.

The article gives food for thoughts, doesn’t it? I believe it shows how the rich manipulate the game and the poor are left in the gutters. The bulk  of the population which attends prestigious private schools are from wealthy families and the prestige of such institutions are sustained by funds which poorer families cannot afford.

Do you think that brand name schools are vicious, elitist, vile, superficial and capitalistic?

OR do you think they are just pragmatic, selective, competitive, classy and fair?

Whose side are you on?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Joyee Chan permalink
    January 13, 2011 12:05 pm

    I had a similar experience when I was in Form 6, but I took it from a different angle.

    I leaped from a Chinese-medium secondary school into the so-called elitist English-all-the-way girls’ school. And during my two years, I was taken aback by how the school provides girls with quality education and encourages them to develop all roundedness in sports, music and arts on top of academic rigour.

    I considered myself lucky to study among these bright and creative minds. Most of the girls were very confident, proactive and competitive. They really humbled me and pushed me to pull my socks up. I started reading more, working harder and being more proactive to keep up. This upbringing helped me a lot with my university studies and work.

    Also, this high school has awards every semester or yearly (I cannot remember correctly) for bilingual excellence. They appreciate students who ace in both Chinese and English. So I cannot agree with their seeing English as a “superior” language.

  2. Nozzies permalink
    January 10, 2011 9:08 pm

    i can only wholeheartedly disagree with the article. if the girl it talks about had known all along how elitist the secondary school was, she shouldn’t have gone there in the first place. there is a reason why people still flock to good old private schools despite all the negative “publicity” they have been getting, and i believe it remains fairly obvious. private schools provide their students with a quality education, a schooling that equips them with confidence and self-worth, an unbringing that society would see as an asset in the future. instead of feeling sorry for herself and criticizing the conventional methods of a Band one education, she should really learn to count her blessings, and be grateful that she’s being given the opportunity to learn alongside the best minds in young society. she should be thankful for being able to learn good proper english in a educational environment that hundreds and thousands of parents would give anything for.
    is it even sensible for her to point out blatantly the harsh realities of an elitist school that is forced to be so in such competitive times in Hong Kong, when she has been taking in all that it has to give? It’s weird that she thinks secondary school should be a place to nurture innocence and dependence when the world beyond its school gates is the exact opposite? being a new student is undoubedly a challenge, but a challenge that can be overcome easily, with a correct mindset and an open mind. being a new student in Form 1 is no big deal, there are hundreds of girls each year from schools everywhere starting a whole new meaningful chapter in the elitist school i know of, and nearly all of them graduate with hardly any problems or emotional setbacks regarding the education they’ve received. private local schools are discriminatory based on merit and the all-roundedness of students, as opposed to wealth, which the writer has so mistakenly mentioned. yes, i do not disagree that children of special family background are sometimes given special priority, but once admitted, all are equal, and the only factor that determines how much one is able to benefit from the same education is how hard one works, and most importantly, one’s attitude. this is how society works, and private secondary schools prepare them for that. this is what distinguishes a first-class education from the others.

  3. blakekwok permalink
    December 27, 2010 6:27 pm

    Yes, everything is so skewed. It is sad however that we understand that it is “pragmatic” to do so. I believe the elitist system has its advantages and that it is unrealistic to offer every single student the same amount of resources as every family itself already has different amounts of resources available to their children, causing in differing starting points of every child.

    And about your link. Yes, the problems are only being exasperated even further because of the current systems.

  4. Gloria Cheung permalink
    December 17, 2010 1:38 am

    I read that article too and i agree with the writer in many points.
    i think this is a foundamental problem of HK education, that is, the so-called “Elite Education”. We always find that most attention and opportunities are put onto the elites, and the others are often being neglected. Maybe it’s the culture in HK society, the utilitarianism making education to be so tilted.

    And the article actually reminds me of another documentry i watch some while ago, and it is also about HK education. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgZ6cdDZ6I4&feature=related
    (it is spoken in Chinese)

    what do others think?

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